Moving platforms and Shabbat elevators
I could swear that I saw a “watch the gap” sign somewhere in an NYC subway station. Or was it a figment of my overactive imagination, a product of a mind so overwrought with the narrowness of the platforms, the stories of people being pushed down on the electrified rails, and the sight of rats cheerily running around everywhere it will just refuse to stare reality in the face while sending a perverse message urging me to do just that? I had a whole speech prepared about cultural differences – musing on how the British say “mind the gap” and wondering why it may be so – is it that they have a fondness for the word “mind”? Mind your manners / I don’t really mind / why on earth would I mind / would you mind… why, no, I don’t mind at all! Is there an ingrained reluctance or absolutely terrifying fear to admit that one does mind something, so that when one is urged to mind an object, one is absolutely shocked and compelled into doing it?
And what about Americans and watching? true, the Brits have CCTV everywhere. But in the US you have to watch your kid / your dog / your cat that you might accidentally cook up in the microwave; watch it, buster, or I’ll… what? what could the incentive be to watch, when New Yorkers prefer to stroll rapidly, and give nothing more than short, furtive or impersonal glances? Alas, those questions are better left to minds on a more enlightened path than mine.
What I can offer you though is this:
Have you seen one before? It actually looks like this if you want a fuller picture – and yes, folks, there is a metalic grid / platform in some stations of the subway (14 St Union Square for example) that moves out to bridge the gawping abyss between the train and the itsy–bitsy platform. It’s kind of cool:
Another thing I have first laid my eyes on here in New York City is the Shabbat elevator. You are now in the process of scratching your head and wondering what that might be? Fear not, Baddie to the rescue. Listen, and listen well: the Shabbat elevator, as discovered in one of the NYU residential halls (which shall remain unnamed at this time) is an elevator programmed to stop at certain floors automatically from Friday evening to Saturday evening. It is involved in a “Shabbat cycle” meant to facilitate Jewish religious observance of the prohibition to actively use technology. I sincerely applaud this – because it’s probably a small change for the institution but a great thing for the religiously observant residents. And yet. I have SO many questions about how this actually works. I mean, I got it that when I got on it and pressed a button, it stopped on the 7th floor automatically (although there was no one there anyway and no one wanted to get off there). Alright. But what if you are on the 7th floor and can’t press the button. And there’s no one around who is not observant. How does the lift know to come? I mean, ok if you take it from downstairs it might have a weight sensor inside (don’t know if this is the case, just guessing it might be an idea). But if you’re outside it, then what? do you wait eternally just in case someone might come by with your elevator? it boggles my mind. Also, I hope that’s not true and that there isn’t someone, somewhere, still waiting for a Shabbat elevator to arrive. I really, really, hope not.